Chewing with My Mouth Open (Thank you, Bell’s Palsy!)

It’s bad manners, of course. But I wonder how many times I didn’t realize I was doing this? I’m better now, but due to an injury to and subsequent viral infection (called Bell’s Palsy) in the nerves of my face last summer, I necessarily developed the habit of chewing with my mouth open. And that was because I literally did not have the muscle control to close the right side of my lips around an eating utensil or purse my lips together to hold the food inside my mouth. In the early days, a lot fell out. Saliva ran don my chin. Drinking was difficult. Using a straw—impossible. Using a water bottle was just as impossible. I needed a wide mouth cup and to tilt my head to the left to drink from it.

Yesterday I ate lunch with some adults, and afterward, panicked, thinking, “Oh no, did I chew with my mouth open, my lips lax and revealing chewed bits of everything I consumed?”

Because even after I regained some muscle control over the year, and could physically close my lips better, and even purse them around food somewhat, my facial muscles were so fatigued all the time from the constant need to talk, as a mother, homeschooling parent and tutor, that I had to give my muscles breaks whenever I could, including when I ate. Eating in public was suddenly so exhausting because I had to exert energy and push the stamina of the muscles just to maintain propriety. And the mouth wasn’t the only obstacle.

I’d once lost complete control of my eyelid along with the rest of the right side of my face. When paralysis left and I got back measures of control, a strange thing happened: my mouth and eye could both be closed by my control, but not independently of each other. If I pursed my lips, my eyelid mimicked it. If I blinked, my moth contracted. So, the act of chewing and keeping the mouth closed to hold the food in involuntarily made my eye begin to close or adopt the expression ones chooses when you narrow your eyes and glare at someone. For a long time, I didn’t enjoy eating around others because, while I could control my face pretty well in talking, the required strength of the muscular contractions needed to close my lips was so strong (much stronger than other expressions), I couldn’t keep my eye from doing weird things.

I never had any pictures taken of my face as it was recovering.


Photo by Rudi Resdiawan Kantor via Flickr.

The above is a realistic picture of Bell’s Palsy. You’d think you could give a half smile, like anyone can, but the truth is, making a smile requires the tension of one sides of your face pulling against the other. When one side is lax, the other side–just like a kid at the end of the rope in tug of war–pulls too hard and flies off. You continually give people weird grimaces and sneers.  Funny thing, many people think there’s something wrong with the side of the face that’s actually working–like you have a facial tick or something, because your expressions do not look natural. You might be trying to simply smile, or give any expression, and others think you’re twitching, grimacing or having muscle spasms.

Bell’s Palsy is supposed to resolve with 4 weeks to a year, though some people do never recover the loss of those nerves, and damage is permanent. And some people’s faces contain trace evidence–slight asymmatrical qualities or an eyelid or smile that doesn’t quite lift as high on one side as the other. I have had this palsy before, and the first time, it resolved in about a month. This time, no one could really tell me what to expect. Because I didn’t have just Bell’s Palsy. My jaw had been dislocated, damaging nerves, soft tissue and muscle in my face. Only days later did the palsy occur. So no one of the three specialists I saw for care could tell me how long a body with such experiences should take to heal; statistics were about only Bell’s Palsy; there were no such statistics about people who first had a prior injury followed by the virus and palsy.

And now, after a year, I can still experience residual effects if my body is stressed and over tired—or if I eat a lot of sugar or grains. (I eliminated both from my diet nearly a year ago to help my body heal.) But yesterday, eating lunch with others, my concern after the fact is that I retain some habits formed by the recovery period. For so long, I gave myself breaks/recovery time from talking by keeping my mouth relaxed as I ate.

Sometimes one of my kids will remind me and say, “Mom, close your mouth!” And I’m sure it looks weird. I didn’t see myself eat over the past year. Another weird habit that formed was using my teeth to scrape food off the fork or spoon as it existed my mouth. Most people purse their lips around utensils to clean the fork off as it exists—but again, my lips wouldn’t comply… I had to use my teeth as the only rigid surface to serve that purpose. And I sometimes notice that I still eat like that.

So for all these foibles and others I may not even be aware of, I want to apologize to anyone who eats with me. And for anyone who does not know my health history, I want to say, please, don’t judge me as it may appear: hopelessly barbaric when it comes to table manners.

But at least now, I’m talking about habits—things I can work on breaking, when I’m aware, because now my face works! Hallelujah!

Other posts:

Eating Keto at Hershey Park

King Tut: Mirror Image Drawing Lesson Week 2, Cycle 1

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

My Current Step in Publishing: Looking for an Agent

Creating an Encouraging Classroom

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Eating Grain Free/Sugar Free at Hershey Park

I’m writing this quick blurb because I looked for something already written on this at the beginning of summer and found nothing.

So, it’s not super easy, but it is possible to eat at Hershey Park and avoid grains and sugar, ala the “keto” way of eating. There are probably more options than I’ve found, but I’ve found enough to be happily satisfied as we use season passes.

  1. My favorite: Spring Creek Smokehouse. This little places seems to be in a less traveled section of the park–near the Trailblazer in the hollow that dips down from the Sidewinder. While I knew this place served ribs and turkey legs, both of which the disclosed ingredients are laden with sugars, I found by visiting that there’s another item that escaped my notice: a half chicken. Yep. It is moist and buttery delicious, sprinkled with some herbs. I also was turned off from this place because the sides which they showcase in the photos don’t help me: potatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese, etc–but when I was in line, the girl working there mentioned “seasonal vegetable.” Each time I’ve gotten this meal since, the veggie was fresh string beans–cooked with garlic. The portion of meat is generous, and while the beans might be a little on the large side for those trying to stay in ketosis, this meal provides everything I need and more.                                                                                                                                                 This photo is from my most recent partaking of this meal, and was not typical. I don’t know if this is why, but I normally eat there between 11 and 2:00; this was at 6:30 PM. Tonight, it was somewhat dry and the green beans were tough, shriveled and unpleasant. But the other 6 times I’ve eaten this, it was great! (And the portion of the beans was usually twice what is pictured.)
  2. IMG_23802. Moe’s Southwest Grill. The very long wait time is the reason this is not my #1 pick. (Even when the line doesn’t look long, it takes at least 20-30 minutes to get anything. It’s so very loud, no one trying to take your order can hear well. There’s such a horrible disconnect between server and served, it’s nerve-wracking. And, the nature of the set-up is just…slow.) The food is delicious. I order a salad (which is served in a fried tortilla bowl, but I opt to forgo that). A bed of romaine lettuce topped with whatever toppings you want is perfect. And their tomatilla salsa and their new avocado salsa make this the tastiest meal I can find in the park. Yes, they do not give a large meat portion, so most of the meal is carbs of the veggies variety, so the balance isn’t perfect for my dietary goals, but I can successfully avoid grains here AND still get full.

IMG_22853. A distant third: Nathan’s hot dog stand–but only the one in the Boardwalk–because only there can you get the cheeseburger. I order the cheeseburger with no bun, so it comes with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles and cheese. The meal also comes with fries which I don’t eat. So it’s good if I’m looking for a smaller meal–say after I’ve had Moe’s salad for the previous meal!

4. The Outpost. This is the one place dedicated to gluten-fee and nut-free foods. I got the Southwest chicken salad, and that was good. Not huge, but adequate. Also, I ordered a side of cheese–which I think is meant for dipping soft pretzels–and poured it over my chicken. That was tasty! The cheese is real stuff–not Cheeze Whiz.

5. Founder’s Kitchen. Again, cheeseburger, but a bacon cheeseburger. Same as the above except I find the taste and quality of the meat and cheese to be lower. But there is a tiny open salad bar type set-up for toppings: you can get more lettuce, tomatoes and onions if you want more.

There are places I’ve never even tried, but I’ve found enough to not be hungry and still avoid grains and most sugar. (But yes, I know–there’s probably sugar in everything, even when you wouldn’t think. But this is the best I can hope for and still enjoy time with the kids at Hershey–and not suffer consequences of feeling bad while there!)

If anyone tries /finds anything else, let me know!


Other posts:

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

Classroom Management and Motivational Techniques

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Eleven Tips for Making/Tweaking the New Homeschool Schedule

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

At a writers’ critique group last night, a young writer brought the opening chapter for the group to read, trying to get everything just right. But the advice of two experienced novelists was astonishing. It was counter-intuitive. I wish someone had told me exactly this when I was writing my first novel: “Don’t work on your first chapter. Just finish the book.”


Wait a minute! Your opening is everything! Agents decide whether to pass on you based on your first 1-5 pages!! And there are a LOT of things you need to get just right for your opening chapter of a novel. That first page has to be stellar. That first paragraph has got to be great. And that first sentence (no pressure) has to be dynamite.

But it’s true: when you’re starting a novel, don’t work on that first chapter! Instead, just keep writing the book until you get to the end.


Because whatever you think is your first chapter, will almost assuredly NOT be your first chapter by the time you finish your story. If you use days of your time perfecting chapter 1, and then you realize later you need to throw the entire chapter out, or keep maybe a single sentence from it, you’d have served yourself far better to just keep writing forward than to belabor something destined for the trash.

Image result for images trash can

For my first completed novel. I’ve changed by first chapter so many times, I honestly cannot remember my orignal first chapter anymore. But I do remember a couple of moments of huge change. I once moved an event from the main character’s far past as the opening page because it pinpointed a moment in time when he was in great danger and set the stage of his life. I also once rewrote nad rewrote the first chapter as an introduction to this main character as an adult, wrestling for weeks nad months about how to characterize him for the first impression on the reader. At least both those chapters still exist in the book, but their placement has moved. Whatever my first draft of my first chapter was, it is so long gone, I cannot recall it at all! So however many hours I put into shaping and reshaping that were really wasting time could better have put somewhere else.

As I write my second novel, I’ve been following advice. I don’t even have a chapter 1.        I have a chapter 2, and so on. To remind myself that sometime later, probably after the book is written to the end, I’ll figure out how it should start.

Posted in writing life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Wonders Mystery: Upside-Down Drawing, Week 3, Cycle 1

The biggest impediment to drawing is our assumptions. We often miss the actual shape of a thing because we get stuck or intimidated about what we think it should look like.

Why do we have kids draw something upside-down? To help students see only what is actually there, not what they think is there.  Here is my lesson for week 3, upside-down drawing, for Classical Conversations. I did this in cycle 1 for a class of journeymen students (ages 8-10).

Because the point of this exercise is to allow the trick to help us see the truth of the lines and basic shapes, I will take you through this tutorial the way my students do it: with the mystery. If I showed you the drawing now, I’d rob you of the opportunity to see if it works for you AND keep you from the experience students have in this.

Prep #1 at home: Make copies of what you want students to draw.

Problem: returning students know to expect this “trick,” so it’s hard to let the trick work its magic. Some get stubborn and don’t even want to try it upside down. Others will try, but keep craning their heads and bodies to keep seeing the drawing right-side-up, and it all results in really funny drawings that show that the lesson didn’t help the students in the least! (Because they weren’t game for giving it a shot.)

So to try to preserve the intent of the exercise by trying to preserve a mystery, I tape construction paper over part of the drawing. For this exercise, I divided the drawing into two parts by drawing a faint line across the page, in the middle. What my students get is just one section at a time visible, the rest covered by construction paper.

Prep #2: To make this go faster in class, I suggest that you also draw, at home, the lines on the blank sheet of paper the students will draw on. Easiest way: lay the original drawing with its dividing pencil lines on a surface. Lay a blank sheet right next to it. On the blank paper, make a dot right next to the end of the lines on the original drawing. To get the dot on the other side of the blank paper, move the original drawing to the other side, line up again, right next to each other, and draw the dots on the blank paper right next to where the dividing lines begin on the original. Last, take a ruler and connect that pair of dots across the paper. You’ll end up with the blank paper divided exactly as the original drawing. (Students CAN do this with instruction, but I wanted to use the time for drawing.)

Step #1. Pass out the drawing to students, with part covered with construction paper (which is in fact the top of the drawing.) Of course they will try to guess what it is. Some may guess correctly, but I say nothing to affirm or deny.

statue of zeus step 1 001


Step # 2. I ask students to trace the basic shapes (and the simple geometric shapes they compose) they see directly onto the paper, as I instructed in the OiLs lesson 1. I used a colored marker to make this more visible to students at a distance. This is fast and loose–not painstaking and exact. I found a lot of ovals in this and some great, a lot of rectangles lines, and some triangles–even heart shapes! Others may see the shapes differently, and that’s ok.

Do you ever have students who bed, “Oh, please, let me just trace it!” Students sees tracing as far easier. And interestingly, tracing is not without benefit, depending on how it’s done. This step is about tracing–the act of tracing over the basic geometric shapes they find, helps with a few skills: 1) students have to actually pay attention to what they see because they make a decision about what shape they see folded into the complex conglomeration of lines 2) the physical act of tracing multiple times gets their hands to FEEL the size and shape.

statue of zeus step 2 001

#3: On a blank sheet of paper you have handed out, ask the student to transfer their basic shapes to it. Remind them they can measure the sizes of these basic shapes–and measure the size of the blank spaces separating them, the skill we learned last week: King Tut: Mirror Image Drawing Lesson Week 2, Cycle 1.

As they draw, I model this on the board, drawing with a marker on the white board to transfer the basic shapes I traced onto my original. I make a point to show that I draw multiple ovals in one space, until I get the shape right. I don’t bother to erase the lights lines of the “drafts”–that’s for later. This is meant to be done fast and loose, drawing lightly until we’re sure. (I’m sorry I no longer have my drawing of this step…)

#4. Now, I’d remove the construction paper to reveal the bottom of the upside-down drawing.

statue of Zeus step 5 001

The fun part is hearing if students are surprised that what they were drawing were feet on a stool. (I admit, drawing feet is a thing of mine–people often say they’re so hard to draw, and I like students to meet feet in unusual perspectives, upside-down, because for many, that’s the only way they’ll ever notice the unusual shapes that actually are formed by toes, arches and ankles. These resemble lumpy potatoes!

Step #5. As you may guess, the next step is to trace basic geometric shapes we see on the original’s other half.

Now here I stop and confess: I don’t have any more examples to show of my next steps. I can share them but not demonstrate them (though they are repeats of the above process)–because I never did them.  I planned this for my journeymen class, but this one lesson proved to be too demanding–at least for the time we had. This is all the farther most of the class got.

And I’d tried to break it down–really I did! See below: the original drawing I found online, then my simplified outline I had kids draw:




I wanted to break down the image to the most essential parts. I then planned to do it in layers: once a student did the above, I’d give them another sheet with the details added on–because details should be last. (And if they cannot even see the details at the beginning, they cannot be distracted by them.) Below you can see the details.

statue of Zeus details 001

I think one student completed most of the upside-down drawing of the simplified version above and then asked for the details to take home.

This detail-stage is where we can add sandals, swirly designs, facial features, angel wings, etc. These details make the image of the Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven wonders of the World, come alive.

I wanted to simplify the drawing for students when they approached it, and yet, it was still a bit much for my class of journeymen. I think my previous year’s master’s class would have done well with it–both because they were older but also highly motivated to take on drawing challenges.

So, lesson learned. This was my least successful lesson in 3 years of tutoring. I wasn’t going to share, but then I did, for two reasons: 1) it shows not all lessons succeed the way we think they will, and 2) I think this may be a perfectly good lesson for masters, if not for journeymen.


Cycle 1 OiLs lessons:

week 1: Horse Head Profile: Drawing Lesson 1, Cycle 1

week 2: King Tut: Mirror Image Drawing Lesson Week 2, Cycle 1

week 4: Abstract Drawing Lesson, Week 4

week 5: (Apologies; what I did three years ago got lost, and I no longer tutor this level…)

week 6: “Multiple Choice” Final Drawing Project, Week 6, Classical Conversations (This is written for cycle 2, but I did the same for cycle 1 and gave them different choices: animals/insects to go with science memory work, and/or ancient statues/architecture.)

Other posts:

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Eleven Tips for Making/Tweaking the New Homeschool Schedule



Posted in art lesson, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

King Tut: Mirror Image Drawing Lesson Week 2, Cycle 1

Ah, the second week of Fine Arts in the Classical Conversations program: Mirror Image! In my first year tutoring, this was a least favorite lesson, but now it’s my favorite and perhaps the most crucial of them all. I didn’t get it at first, but now I do: the goal is to teach the way a good artist observes space. Week 1 is about shapes, now week 2 is about how much space those shapes take up and how they relate to each other in space. In other words, it’s all about measurement.

My lesson was aimed at students age 8-10 in my Classical Conversations class. For this age group and up, I tend to choose human or animal faces; it’s not only the perfect lesson during which to focus on a face, it’s also the only lesson in my Classical Conversations plan that lends itself to the focus necessary to do a face.

To fit Cycle 1, I chose the image of King Tut  below.  I cut the original in half down the middle for this exercise.

king tut mirrow image original 001

This is a neat lesson that will appeal to those who like to draw for artistic reasons as well as those who find comfort in precision. This project has a bit of both.

Step #1. I pass out the papers with half of Tutankhamen’s face. Just as in lesson 1, I first instruct students to look for the basic shapes they see AND trace those shapes with their pencils. I used a red marker for my example copy so students can see what I did more easily from their seats. But I will not show mine right away unless to a student struggling to comprehend the goal. (I want students to trace the shapes THEY see, not just copy what I see. The whole point in learning to draw is to be able to break complex shapes into simple ones on one’s own.)

You can see my red lines outlining the basic geometric shapes I see: rectangles and triangles, and ovals for the ear.

king tut step 2 002

STEP #2. NEW SKILL! The make-or-break-it skill to reproduce a mirror image is accurately judging space and size. We could leave it to free-handing chance–but there are skills we can master to make this spot-on.

AFTER students have traced the shapes they see on the original, then we talk about them drawing on the blank side. We will measure the spacing of the outer contours of his face and of his headdress and neck. But no rulers needed! Let us use what a have at hands, namely our hands and pencils and erasers. I checked measurements for the widest part of the forehead, for the jawline, for the widest part of the headdress and the narrowest. I measured how wide and long the ear was, etc. Use what works for your to measure. Maybe a distance the length of your first finger’s middle knuckle to the end of your finger is the space from his nose to his ear. Or maybe the length of your pencil eraser to the number “2” stamped on your pencil is the width of the top of his headdress.

I make tiny dots for noting the width of these shapes, then lightly pencil in the shapes–keeping the drawing loose. If my lines are light, I can easily erase them if I need to.

Step #3 To make this rather detailed drawing more approachable, you’ll see I’m now going to repeat instructions with a different focus. Now we’re going to look for basic shapes again–but this time, for the features: the eyes, the nose, the eyebrow, etc. That’s easy. But–also, the cheek. What shape is the cheek? what shapes are in the chin and jaw and forehead? We have to map ALL the spaces! Below, my drawing shows steps 3 and 4, so focus only on the shapes I drew in pencil on the original at this stage.king tut step 3 001

Step #4 Now that we have the facial features traced on the original–in whatever shapes any student sees–we can then start drawing them on the blank side. This is shown above.

Measure how wide the eyeball is. For me, it’s the same as the metal bracket on the end of my pencil. Place a dot on the other side of this measurement for the eye. How much space does the shape you see in his cheek take up? How about the spaces above and below his eyebrow? Measuring with something you have on hand will help get a mirror image that is true.

Repeat these steps for all the other details of his headdress,etc.

Step #5: Now, to finish, I show students how to erase the lines we don’t actually need for the final version: lines to help us properly space out the jaw line and break of the space of the forehead, etc. So erase all the lines that are not his features, and you are left with King Tut. Along with erasing lines you don’t need, bolden the lines you want to keep. While I did not, students could use a marker to more easily make the lines the right thickness/darkness.

king tut step 5 001

When students don’t get this finished within the class time (which is common), I encourage them to finish at home and bring it back in next week. I find this to be very motivational for students. Some students bring it back; others take a picture and have it on a phone to share with the class. I like to encourage them and point out details on each student’s work that showed really good observations. (As a Challenge A tutor, I learned how all this drawing training prepares students for a crucial skill in science: observation. For the first 10 weeks in A, students draw the subject of each science report.)

Enjoy mirror image drawing!

Next up: Seven Wonders Mystery: Upside-Down Drawing, Week 3


Other posts:

Horse Profile: Drawing Lesson 1, Cycle 1

Seven Wonders Mystery: Upside-Down Drawing, Week 3, Cycle 1

Abstract Drawing Lesson, Week 4

Creating an Encouraging Classroom

Eleven Tips for Making/Tweaking the New Homeschool Schedule

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

I’m NOT that Crafty Mom





Posted in art lesson, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Horse Head Profile: Drawing Lesson 1, Cycle 1

For the first drawing lesson, we explore the basic shapes. In Classical Conversations, we spend the first six weeks of the Foundations program learning drawing lesson in the Fine Art segment of the class. My lessons were designed for the Masters class (ages 10-11), but the specific class I had last with cycle one were Journeymen–ages 8-10. I aimed to make the subjects of our content fit with the ancient world to match the cycle.

Because I did tutor for every cycle already, and never had the same students twice (except my own son), this week 1 drawing is nearly a repeat of what I did for cycle 2, which you may have seen on this blog. However, experience has taught me, were I to do it again, I’d simplify the project to only the horse head instead of the entire horse body–unless I had a class that needed a challenge.  (I once had a masters class–ages 10-13–that needed the challenge of the centaur from Narnia, but the very next year, different students would have been overwhelmed by that. Hence, I would now focus on the head of the horse, as shown below.)

cc horse step 4 001

Otherwise, my lesson is the same as what is already posted here: Basics of Drawing: Fine Arts, Week 1 for Classical Conversations. Just scale it back to only the head and ignore the rest. (Yes, as a repeat tutor with different students, I didn’t have to start from scratch for new lesson plans each year–but for those of you who’ve already used mine and hoped I would do something entirely different/new, I’m sorry!) Horses are so popular with students, boys and girl, and fit so well with each history cycle, I stick with them!

As I mention in other lesson posts, I love saving the students’ first drawings from this week and then presenting them the opportunity to draw the same thing 6 weeks later. When they are done, I can bring out their first version for comparison. Even I am amazed at what can happen in merely 5 weeks!

Other posts:

King Tut: Mirror Image Drawing Lesson Week 2, Cycle 1

Seven Wonders Mystery: Upside-Down Drawing, Week 3

Abstract Drawing Lesson, Week 4

How I Talk to My Students about Drawing on Day One

How Do You Change a Negative Classroom Atmosphere or Create a Positive One in the First Place?

Six Lessons from Employing Mr. Mom

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?


Posted in art lesson, homeschooling, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Classroom Management and Motivational Techniques


How do you encourage positive classroom engagement and participation–without having to bring in candy and cheap little gadgets from the Dollar Store? I’m talking about middle school aged kids (and for those in Classical education, that’s the dialectic stage.) This is my favorite age group and over the years, I’ve experimented and tried to figure out what really motivated them. At this ages (10-14) they are unique. Yes, they respond to candy and other behavior modification techniques–but is that best serving them to continue these types of systems? My answer for myself as the leader of their classroom is, no.

But what else do you do? Especially when the students pose challenges–such as demonstrating selfishness, negativity, one-up-man-ship, or not participating?

I wrote before about upper elementary and how my main classroom management tool is leveraging privileges that growing maturity can grant students. Specifically, I set up a system where students in my class were assigned seats when the year began, but they were told how they can earn the privilege to choose their seats and sit by friends. (Creating an Encouraging Classroom. That is the first in a series that gets pretty detailed.)

But what about when they get older and/or they meet that standard and yet you still need something to keep students motivated? Or you need/they need you to up the standard?

This past year, I spent a year leading seminars with students who were 12/13, and because the class was small, the entire seating chart idea fell flat. With so few options for where they could sit, there just were not enough variables for that to be a system that made any sense. I had to start the year with something else altogether.


I credit others in the same position around the country (directing/tutoring Challenge A classes in Classical Conversations, a homeschool group) for the idea of a rubber band jar, which I’ve altered to fit my needs. Students earned rubber bands for “stretching themselves.” I’ve heard other tutors describe this various ways; each tutor can define it how it best fits the class’s needs. And in the system I heard others were using, the goal was to motivate the class to fill the jar with rubber bands, and when it was full, the tutor brought in something as a whole-class treat. I’ve heard of others doing similar things with beans and marbles.

My system is a take-off of those. I still am trying to find ways for their participation and ways of encouraging both their classmates as well as the learning environment to result in increased autonomy, responsibility or privilege for them–not sugar.

(Seriously, people, this battle is real. Forgive this aside (or skip to the next paragraph). I’m trying so hard, for my family and my classrooms, to not revolve around sugar. A personal aside: cutting sugar and things that break down into sugar , i.e. grains, from the diet makes you a different person. I just cannot stand anymore relinquishing to sugar again and again for treats. I want to break that line between sugar and reward every way I can. Because now I know how destructive it is long-term for our kids to hold onto this belief system that’s it’s just a normal part of our diet, and not really bad until you become obese or get diabetes. No, I cannot make this dietary revolution happen in my class, but I have to at least try to live my own convictions by not propagating something I find so distressing–in the immediate atmosphere of my class as the body’s task to process sugar takes away brain power from the kids. [Like I told my staff of Sunday School teachers when I was directing children’s ministry: “If we really believe that what we’re teaching is important, we will want to give them food that sets them up for optimum receptivity to our words/lessons, not give them treats that mean we now have to compete for their attention and energy as sugar takes their brain on a detour..)

OK, forgive me that aside, but that is a deep motivation of mine that was just strengthened greatly this year. Back to motivating students: when students in my class “stretch themselves,” I write their initials on a rubber band. (Buy wide ones!) All the rubber bands they earn are put in a jar/container. Whenever we need to choose a review game–I pull out a rubber band and let that student choose. When it’s presentation time and kids are clamoring: “Can I go first? “Can I go last?” I will pull out a few rubber bands, let those students choose their preferred order, and the rest will go according to my list. Similarly, for our reasoning strand book, I work on students leading discussions and asking questions of their classmates for a section, and I use the rubber bands to determine the order in which which students get to choose their favorite sections to lead. When I have a small enough class that we can fit in the picnic table outside, I let a student choose if we should discuss a book indoors or outdoors. (Though, with my full class this year, I think that privilege will have to be removed!)

I’m looking for more ideas–other ways students can exercise their choice or autonomy. I do find somethings don’t work equally well with every group of students. Here’s a funny problem: I had a class that was small and each persona really learned how to put others first and encourage each other. When I chose a rubber band to determine who picked the review game, the students weren’t willing to exert an preference! They each wanted to pick a game the others agreed on! It was actually really sweet–the person with the privilege to pick took a vote and went with classmates’ preference!  (But that’s  good problem to have! And it’s a good opportunity to discuss each submitting to each other as well as to allow someone else to enjoy a game they really like, even if it’s not what the majority wants. Mutual care–what a tough thing to master!)

If anyone has any classroom privileges that I’ve not thought of, please share!


Other posts:

How Do You Change a Negative Classroom Atmosphere or Create a Positive One in the First Place?

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Latin Clue Game

The Ink They Left On Me: Writers Anne Lamott and Tracy Chevalier


Posted in homeschooling, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment